West Germany's armed forces have cut back on some military exercises because of budget constraints and the high value of the U.S. dollar, but in order to avoid more irritation with the Reagan administration over West German defense spending, Bonn's military command has decided not to pull any troops out of NATO's major autumn exercises.
Following a Defense Ministry cost-cutting session yesterday, Lt. Gen. Hans Poeppel, the Army chief of staff, said that the annual maneuvers with Bonn's Western allies would not be cut, as some West German newspapers, quoting defense sources, had earlier speculated they might. But Poeppel said reductions would be made in some smaller exercises to help meet a shortage of $80 million in Bonn's defense budget this year.
"This is all very painful," the West German general said..
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told a West German television interviewer last night that he thinks President Reagan will also be forced to reduce planned levels of defense spending as a result of U.S. economic forecasts that are more pessimistic now than they were a few months ago.
"It looks as if the American budget deficit is going to be much larger than was originally intended, and that, as a result, the American president intends to cut his defense budget," Schmidt said. He was apparently referring to reports of discussions at Reagan's Santa Barbara ranch between White House budget director David Stockman and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
Weinberger criticized the Bonn government last month when West Germany announced a tentative budget plan for 1982 that foresaw no real increase in defense spending, in sharp contrast to Reagan's target of a 7 percent real increase in U.S. military spending. At that time, Schmidt put some of the blame for Bonn's cutbacks on high U.S. interest rates that have forced a tightening of West Germany's own credit markets and are seen as helping prolong West Germany's recession.
Schmidt last night backed reductions in the U.S. budget.
"All in all," the chancellor said, "I am very concerned that America reduce its budget deficit, as indeed West Germany has done. Otherwise, the U.S. central bank's high interest rates will be left to fight inflation alone."
For the West German military, compounding the general budget problem has been the rise in the value of the dollar, up roughly 30 percent against the deutschemark since the start of the year. This has increased Bonn's military training bill by about $16 million, since West Germany must use dollars to pay for training for its troops at the U.S. Army's missile school in El Paso, Tex., and at the jet fighter center in Cottesmore, England.
The NATO maneuvers are an annual series of exercises that afford allied troops a chance to practice fighting together. This year's maneuvers, scheduled next month, will involve 71,000 soldiers, some airlifted to Europe from bases in the United States.